Shore Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” Comes to Chestertown — This Weekend Only!

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Poster Art Shore Shakespear’s 2018 production “As You Like It”

Shore Shakespeare Company’s Annual free Tour Production of As You Like It by William Shakespeare concludes this weekend with two performances at Chestertown’s Wilmer Park.  The production features original music and lyrics by local composer Gregory Minahan, and is directed by Christian Rogers, assisted by Lindsey Hammer.

This sparkling comedy presents Shakespeare’s send-up of the pastoral genre and an exploration of love in all its passion, illogic, and messiness.  The production features the talents of Christine Kinlock as Rosalind and Zack Schlag as Orlando, along with Madeline Webb, Troy Strootman, Will Robinson, Brian McGunigle, and Howard Mesick.  Filling out the cast are John Feldman, Heather Robuck, Henry Hills, Nita Wieczoreck, Jane and John Terebey, Josh Hansen, Samantha Davis, and Phoebe Kelly, along with a few … special guests.  Costumes are by Barbi Bedell, and stage management by Avra Sullivan.

Christine Kinlock (left) as Ganymede, Zack Schlag as Orlando in Shore Shakespeare’s 2018 production of “As You Like It”    Photo courtesy of Ernest Valeo

 

 

 

 

FREE Tour Performances this weekend at Wilmer Park include two shows, Friday, June 22nd at 7:00 pm, and Sun June 24th at 5:00 pm.  [PLEASE NOTE: Due to a scheduling conflict, there is no performance on Sat June 23rd.]  Complete information and show times are available on the company’s website at www.shoreshakespeare.com or by calling 410-690-3165.  All Tour performances are FREE and open to the public.

Join Shore Shakespeare for an al fresco performance of this delightful comedy. Full of unforgettable characters, sparkling wit, slapstick humor, and eclectic song and dance, As You Like It has it all! Make your plans now to gather with friends and family, bring a picnic and your favorite beverage, and enjoy one of Shakespeare’s most enduring romantic comedies.

Special guest (left), Jullie Yankovich as Audrey, Howard Mesick as Touchstone in Shore Shakespeare’s 2018 production of “As You Like It” Photo courtesy of Ernest Valeo

Be sure to check www.shoreshakespeare.com for weather updates!

William Shakespeare’s
AS YOU LIKE IT
FREE TOUR CONCLUDES THIS WEEKEND!
Music & Lyrics by Gregory Minahan
Directed by Christian Rogers

June 22nd, 7:00 pm
June 24th, 5:00 pm
Wilmer Park
Chestertown, MD

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Four Bridges by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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From time to time, I work over on the Western Shore. To get back home, I count four bridges: the Severn River Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the Kent Narrows Bridge, and last-but-hardly-least, the Chester River Bridge. With each crossing, I exhale a little more so that by the time I’m home, I’m at peace and all is well.

Bridge facts: The Severn River Bridge was built in 1920 and is officially known as the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge. It’s much larger cousin—the one we call the Bay Bridge—is really the Governor William Preston Lane Jr Memorial Bridge. Approximately four and a half miles long, the Bay Bridge first opened to traffic in 1952; a second (now westbound) span was added in 1973. The Bay Bridge can make for some nerve-wracking crossings: its height, narrow traffic lanes, low guardrails, and susceptibility to wind have given the Bay Bridge the dubious reputation of being one of the scariest bridges in the world. Be that as it may, the Bridge opened Maryland’s Eastern Shore to the world, changing forever—for better and for worse—the relative isolation and beauty of the Land of Pleasant Living.

But having crossed the Bay Bridge, you’re still in limbo on Kent Island. The true Eastern Shore doesn’t begin until you’ve crossed the Kent Narrows Bridge, the one that spans the waterway connecting the Chester River to the Eastern Bay while also joining Kent island to the Delmarva Peninsula. Holly’s used to greet you on the eastern side of the bridge, but now Holly’s is just another Royal Farms. Sad.

There’s still one bridge to go: our own dear Chester River Bridge. Only 1465 feet long, this charming little bascule structure built in 1930 connects Queen Anne’s County to Kent County and for those of us on the Chestertown side, it’s a constant source of gossip and speculation. Does it need repair or maintenance? Will it be closed for a few weeks?? You mean we have to go all the way to Crumpton to cross the river??? Serious questions for our town and its little concrete lifeline to QAC and the great beyond!

But wait: there’s an elephant in the room. It’s the specter of yet another bridge, a potential new span across the northern Bay that would form a direct connection between Tolchester in Kent County at the eastern terminus and Harford County and the northern Baltimore suburbs at the western terminus. Opponents cite the project’s staggering cost (at least $7 billion), along with problems like unholy traffic congestion, environmental degradation, unchecked development, and disastrous changes to the farms and serene pace of life here in Kent County. Proponents point out the merits of badly needed economic development, an expanded tax base providing for improved schools and services, and the potential for regulated and carefully planned development. No matter which side of the bridge debate you’re on (no pun intended), a new crossing would constitute a massive political, economic, environmental, and cultural undertaking with far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for those of us who live here now and for generations to come.

But I’m not here to fight that battle today. As you might guess, I’m looking at bridges and seeing metaphors. I like bridges because they make connections; they join two sides; they span differences. So I wonder: why can’t we just build a bridge that crosses the aisle in the halls of Congress? Who could build a bridge that would span the wide political gulf that seems to surround us on all sides these days? Just wondering…

When I drive here, west to east, I count my four bridges like mile-markers along the way. When I finally reach this side of the Chester, I know I’m home.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Out and About (Sort of): Coming Together by Howard Freedlander

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Some building dedications are better than others. Some political speeches resonate more than others. Sometimes, self-congratulation can seem endless.

None of these happened when Temple B’Nai Israel celebrated the public opening of its new home on Easton Parkway on Sunday, June 10. Temple and community members gathered for an occasion that marked a milestone in the 67-year history of this synagogue, the only one on the Mid-Shore area.

Walking the Torah’s into the new building. Photo by Alan Mickelson

No longer would this growing congregation of more than 200 have to endure cramped space at its former location hidden behind the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center on Washington Street in Easton. At its new location at 7199 Tristan Drive, facing Easton Parkway, Temple B’Nai Israel is visible to all passersby—so is the Jewish experience, as represented by a place and its congregants.

On a Sunday afternoon threatened by an onslaught of rain, my wife and I attended a ceremony that was immensely joyous and meaningful. The constant theme voiced by Maryland’s two United States senators was one that stressed the importance of coming together.

Behavior reflecting a willingness to listen to others with polar-opposite viewpoints is a rarity in our current state of affairs, as the senators said.

Senator Cardin (Photo by Alan Mickelson)

After humorously alluding to the not-so-uncommon difficulty encountered by churches and synagogues in agreeing on a course of action, Sen. Ben Cardin commended the Temple B’Nai Israel leaders, including its rabbi, Peter Hyman, for uniting in its goal to build a new synagogue. Its membership raised $6 million to build an airy and comfortable building comprising 9,500 square feet.

As Sen. Cardin said, undertaking a major capital project can entail political maneuvering fiercer than political combat in Annapolis and Washington, Judging from the laugher that greeted Cardin when he related his own personal experience at a synagogue in Baltimore, I gathered that temple members did not disagree.

After providing humor and congratulations, Cardin apologized for imposing a “damper” on the festive event, proceeding to discuss troubling events in our country and the world regarding anti-Semitism, profiling of African-Americans and bias toward immigrants and Muslims.

I’ve rarely seen Ben Cardin so passionate. As chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission on Racism and Intolerance, he spoke from intimate knowledge and personal revulsion.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (photo by Alan Mickelson)

As Sen. Chris Van Hollen spoke too of divisiveness and polarization in our America, he pointed to the construction and dedication of the synagogue as a worthy example of coming together and overcoming differences. He spoke about the overwhelming need for unity and mission focus.

Following the two U.S. senators, Talbot County Councilman Corey Pack eloquently and powerfully called for unity of action, not just words spoken from a pulpit. Pack further stressed the underlying theme of social justice. He understood the importance of Temple B’Nai Israel in Talbot County and the surrounding area.

As I’ve learned over the years, a building dedication implicitly solicits community acceptance, a recognition that bricks and mortar offer a space for good work and outreach to the community.

Talbot County Council Member Corey Pack (photo by Alan Mickelson )

A new building, particularly a house of worship, is not a cocoon. It’s not meant to separate but congregate. It gives a like group of people place to gather; it also, ideally, offers space for disparate members of the community to feel welcome and prized.

Of course, I could feel a pervasive pride at the dedication of Temple B’Nai Israel. As Rabbi Hyman profusely and carefully thanked numerous people for their contributions to the synagogue before, during and after its construction, I had the distinct feeling that he was determined to recognize every member of the temple for his or her work, energy and dollars—because he understood that a family requires constant cultivation. He also paid homage to the builder, architect and, yes, the caterer.

Aware of the trials and tribulations that have bedeviled Jews over its difficult history, I marvel at the resilience of a people who endured the horror of the Holocaust 80 years. The Torah scrolls enshrined at Temple B’Nai Israel chronicle the tortured history and thriving culture of the Jews thousands of years ago. They project continuity, even amid distress.

Founded in 1951, with a foothold in the 21st century, this temple faces a future filled with promise and opportunity. The public dedication on June 10 provided a kick-off witnessed and applauded by the congregation and community.

The Jewish tradition continues. Inclusiveness marked the dedication.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

 

 

 

Birds of a Feather by George Merrill

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I met a wren one morning. She stood on my studio doorstep. Appearing so fearless, she surprised me.

Various kinds of wildlife pass by my studio window all the time; deer, turkeys, otters, groundhogs, rabbits, buzzards, eagles, owls and ospreys. I hear the frequent whimper of squirrels. I have never understood what troubles them that they sound so plaintive.

I am surrounded by trees that whisper in breezes. The magnolia tree is different; its large leaves strike each other emitting not a soft rush as conifers or hardwoods do, but a kind of rattling you hear when wind blows though venetian blinds.

While my relationship to regional wildlife is a fond one, except for ticks, it’s typically distant.

It was unusual for me to see wildlife as close up as the wren. As I approached, I fully expected she would fly away. Instead, she flew and lighted even closer to me on the railing by the steps. She looked at me. I stood still for fear of spooking her. Now she was barely more than three feet from where I stood. A fledgling, I was sure. On her head, I could see unruly strands of nap rather than smooth feathers. I reckoned that this was perhaps one of her early explorations of the neighborhood. She still possessed that precious once in a lifetime gift, the innocence of youth that revels in curiosity and wonder while finding the world irresistibly enchanting.

I didn’t move. In the background, I could hear the loud and insistent chirping of another wren. Perhaps it was Mom or Dad calling for her to come back home “this very instant” the way impatient parents yell at children who heedlessly wander away.

I moved my hand toward her. She turned her head side to side, first eying my hand from one side and then from the other. I suspect she may have been wondering if this was the best time to get out of there. Was she as curious about her proximity to me as I was to her?

Fidgeting some, she remained on the spot. Since she flew up from the doormat onto the railing, I knew she could fly. I was glad she wasn’t staying just because she was injured. Maybe I was flattered that given the choice to stay or leave, she found me interesting enough to hang out for a few minutes to see what I was all about.

Finally, she flew away – back home I assume. However, her leaving did not in the least silence the raucous chirping of the other wren somewhere in the distance. Some parent was probably lecturing this hapless bird brain about never crossing the street alone and especially sitting on some stranger’s doorstep. It’s sad as I think about it, though; that with so many of our wildlife neighbors conditioned to be wary of us, and we of them, man, beast and bird alike are consigned to regard our differences as dangers rather than opportunities for discovery. A peaceable kingdom is not immediately in the offing, but for mutual ecological survival, better it gets on the agenda sooner than later.

Today among our own species, citizens of the same country or even individuals in the same family, differences become occasions for suspicion. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in racial discrimination of blacks by white Americans. We also see the LGBT community being maligned and treated as moral failures while they justly appeal for respect and equality in a predominantly heterosexual society.

After 200,000 years on the planet, we still don’t know how to regulate differences except with violence and by discrimination. It’s as if we’re evolution’s immature adolescents, clinging to personal identities that affirm nothing more enlightening than, “I’m not like them.” This is an old problem, old enough to have been highlighted in Luke’s gospel written over 1900 years ago. We are slow learners. Hopefully we’ll be late bloomers. The parable is instructive

Luke’s story goes roughly like this. Two men go up to the temple to pray. One is a Pharisee, a religious elite of that era. He is full of himself and looks down on everyone, or as my grandmother liked to say, “puts on airs.” He prays: “I thank you God that I’m not greedy, dishonest or an adulterer like everyone else or like that tax collector over there.” In those days, a tax collector was considered a social pariah. “I fast, and tithe generously,” the Pharisee’s prayer concludes.

What a guy!

The tax collector, on the other hand, stands apart from him, doesn’t even lift his head to heaven, but instead beats his breast, saying “God have pity on me, a sinner.”

Jesus likes the tax collector better and declares that the tax-collectors is the one that’s right with God.

Not for a moment do I interpret this story as endorsing self-denigration as a direct route to holiness. However, I do read it as a statement that humility, is. Arrogance and humility play out very differently in the human equation as much as they do in divine-human confrontations. It’s the difference between believing in possibilities – being open – or dismissing others contemptuously, as a bigot does. In humility, there’s also a suggestion of reverence, a sense of the integrity and potential goodness we are prepared, at least for starters, to impute to others with whom we deal. Stereotyping is a form of arrogance – thank God, I’m not like him.

A long way from a young wren sitting on my door step, you say? Not really. I was closer that morning than I have ever been to a wren in the wild. The wren’s openness made for a meeting between species. She had not responded fearfully as I’d fully expected, but behaved curiously, instead. And indeed, it turned out to be a moment for a mutual regulation of differences. I don’t normally talk to birds nor do any birds let me close enough so I can.

Imagine if gays and straights, blacks and whites, or that Muslims and Christians could feel sufficiently safe to confide with each other what it’s like to be the kind of people we are. It’s heartwarming to think how, in the last analysis, we might discover we’re more birds of a feather than we’d ever imagined.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Automated Vehicles Could Eliminate the Need for Another Bay Bridge by David Montgomery

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Signs announcing opposition to a third span over the Chesapeake Bay are already popping up in Queen Anne and Kent County.   Governor Hogan initiated a study of the need, possible location, and potential cost of a new span in 2016, and consultations with potentially affected communities began earlier this year.

There is no question that the Bay Bridge is subject to time-wasting congestion during our evening commutes back to the Eastern Shore and on summer weekends when vacationers head to the beaches.  The number of vehicles trying to cross the bridge is projected to increase by over 30% by 2040, ultimately turning congestion into gridlock.

Relieving that current and projected future congestion is the reason given for building an additional span over the Bay.  But more construction may not be necessary if automated vehicles take over the market as other projections suggest.

I have been working with an organization known as SAFE (Securing America’s Future Energy) on a study of the potential costs and benefits of automated vehicles for the past year.  It was released on June 13. These are some highlights.

New cars already incorporate many new technologies that automate driving tasks:  adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, collision avoidance, and self-parking to name a few.  Many experts and auto companies foresee rapid improvement in these fledgling technologies, to the point that vehicles could drive themselves with little or no need for driver intervention.  Google and Uber are already ordering and testing such vehicles (as news of a recent pedestrian fatality caused by faulty programming of hazard detection and response logic made everyone aware).

In our study, SAFE projected that with favorable technology advances and market conditions, over 90% of passenger miles traveled by 2040 could be in fully automated vehicles.  The capabilities of those vehicles would make it possible to move all the projected traffic over the Bay Bridge in 2040 with zero congestion and no new construction.

Some preliminary projections from the Maryland Department of Transportations set the context.  The Bay Bridge now carries more than 70,000 vehicles a day. MDOT expects that to grow to 92,000 by 2040.  The average traffic volume during weekends in the summer is forecasted to grow to 125,900 vehicles per day by 2040, a 31 percent increase from 2013.

A December 2004 Transportation Needs Report from MDOT analyzed hourly congestion levels, which are what really matter. With the level of traffic projected for 2040, about 5,750 vehicles per hour would attempt to cross the bridge during the weekend peak period of 2 – 5 PM.  Peak weekday traffic going eastbound would be over 4000 vehicles per hour between 4 and 5 PM.

MDOT estimates that when fewer than 2000 vehicles per hour are crossing in the three westbound lanes there is no congestion and when 2000 vehicles per hour are crossing eastbound there will be only occasional slowdowns.

When more than 3000 vehicles per hour attempt to cross in either direction, traffic breaks down and stop and go traffic is the rule.  With that constraint, the levels of traffic projected for 2040 would be catastrophic.

An MDOT study guessed that a new span could cost up to $6.85 billion, and would require other road network upgrades.  With the time required for planning, debating and construction, it is unlikely that would do anything for congestion for at least a decade or possibly longer.

 

Vehicle automation that we are likely to see could make that new span unnecessary by the time the money is spent.

There are three major ways in which vehicle automation can reduce or eliminate congestion.   The technologies that are required include detection of surrounding vehicles and communication of traffic conditions together with automatic control of speed, braking and lane changing.  These automated capabilities would

  1. Allow vehicles to travel safely with much smaller distances between vehicles
  2. Eliminate the accordion effects created by lane changing and human reaction times for braking and accelerating
  3. Prevent accidents that are the major cause of congestion not caused by inadequate capacity.

Just the first of these benefits, shorter headway, would dramatically increase bridge capacity.

With anything over 2000 vehicles per hour now causing some form of congestion, and potential peak traffic of 5750 per hour during weekends in 2040, the capacity of the bridge would have to be nearly tripled to avoid weekday and weekend congestion.   The worst forms of congestion now appear when traffic exceeds 3000 vehicles per hour, and just to avoid those conditions capacity would have to be doubled.

Building an additional bridge with the same one-way capacity as the current bridge would provide just barely enough additional capacity to accommodate weekday rush hour traffic without congestion, and would still put weekend traffic into stop and go conditions much of the time.

In contrast, cutting the distance between vehicles in half at highway speeds would double the number of vehicles that could cross the bridge with no congestion.  An automated vehicle will be much faster than a human being in braking to avoid a rear-end collision, and communication between vehicles will give it advance warning of traffic conditions far beyond line of sight.  

It is straightforward algebra to determine that if the bridge can handle 2000 vehicles per hour with current distances maintained between vehicles, it could handle 4000 vehicles per hour with half that spacing and 6000 vehicles per hour with one-third the spacing.  From my calculations, the current capacity of the 2-lane eastbound bridge translates into about a 3-second distance between vehicles when traffic is flowing smoothly. If the faster reaction times and ability to observe distant changes in traffic flow characteristic of AVs reduced that to a 1-second distance, the needed tripling of bridge capacity would be achieved.

Thus if AV technology and the share of AVs in the total vehicle fleet progresses to the point that headways can be cut to one-third of the current prevailing distance, there would be no need for a new bridge.  All the needed additional capacity would be provided at no extra cost by the automated vehicle fleet.

What does that imply as a prudent course of action now?  

First, the advancement of AV technology and introduction of automated vehicles should be monitored carefully to determine how introduction of AVs is changing capacity requirements.  For example, traffic studies have found that even if as few as 10% of the vehicles crossing the bridge have automated capabilities, they can smooth out traffic flow.

Second, traffic systems on the bridge should be updated to take advantage of automated capabilities as soon as they appear – for example, creating reserved lanes for vehicles with collision avoidance and automatic cruise control systems once there are enough to utilize such lanes fully.  

Third, traffic management measures like congestion-varying tolls could be used to spread out traffic on the existing bridge, until enough AVs are on the road to increase its peak capacity.  These have been proven on Virginia freeways and would work even better if automated vehicles obtained real time information on tolls.

With this combination of incremental improvements in capacity as AVs become more prevalent and the ultimate increase in capacity from a fully automated fleet, the disruption and expense of a third span over the Chesapeake might be avoided completely.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy. He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America, David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

New Steps by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Rob built new steps for our house last week. I “supervised.” I watched him measure twice and cut once. I watched him level the job to perfection—not a simple task given the way things slant and lean around here. I watched him drill holes, drive nails, and set screws to create a solid, stable platform on which to stand or (as is often my wont) to sit. I watched him bull nose the treads and paint the risers…I thought I had a momentary vision of DaVinci, flat on his back, working on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And when he was finished, he stepped back and looked upon what he had wrought and said, “Nah; off by an inch.” And he started over.

Rob would be the first to admit that he’s a perfectionist. It’s a quality that I greatly admire but don’t remotely share. I can live with imperfection which, in my case, is a good thing. Still, a craftsman like Rob doesn’t earn his stellar reputation by producing shoddy work. The same is true of my friend Eggman the painter. He’s an old-fashioned miracle up on a ladder, sanding, scraping, taping, priming, laying on a first coat, then a second, before he details and touches up his work. Even then, for Rob or Eggman, the work isn’t done: saws and tools and brushes need to be cleaned and stored, everything returned to its proper place, ready for the next job. That kind of organization and care is another quality I admire but don’t share. I put down my screwdriver and five minutes later I can’t for the life of me find it.

But back to our new steps. It doesn’t take a genius to see their metaphoric value. The old steps were worn out. The wood was rotting in places, the paint was chipped; truth be told, they were an accident waiting to happen. As a portal to our porch and house, they sent entirely the wrong message: this house is tired, it has lost its charm, it isn’t loved and cared for by the owners. Talk about fake news!

We all need new steps from time to time. It’s so easy to follow old, familiar patterns, or to overlook problems, or to take the easy way out of banal responsibilities. Why not put something off until tomorrow? Maintenance isn’t sexy; let’s just buy something shiny and new and never mind those old porch steps. We’ll get to those someday…

Of course, there’s this, too: new steps lead in new directions. That journey of a thousand miles really does begin with a single step. It may be a hard one to take sometimes, but unless that initial stride is made, there is no progress, only decay. I can’t honestly say I was thinking those thoughts as I watched Rob labor away on our new steps, but the message he left behind after he packed up his tools and drove away is crystal clear: new steps lead to new beginnings.

Be like Rob: make new steps.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Out and About (Sort of): What’s Behind The Wall? By Howard Freedlander

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As I viewed the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall a week ago on the grounds of VFW Post 5118 in Easton, I looked at the 58,000 names of men and women killed in Southeast Asia and starkly envisioned in the black background of the haunting tribute the turbulent 1960s.

I spent the rest of the week trying to make sense of a violent decade marked by war abroad and civil upheaval at home.

Allow me to share my thoughts. They might echo yours. They might rankle.

Like others born at the end of World War II, I spent my adolescence and young adulthood in the 1960s. While coping with my own growing pains and angst, I felt buffeted by catastrophic events. The decade was historic for its tragedies, its divisiveness caused by the Vietnam War, fractious race relations, the impact of feminism and a revulsion by some toward academic institutions and the government.

To this day, I cannot understand what begat the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. I wondered then if there were some unconscionable and undetected strain in American culture that led to the extermination of excellence.

I understand that many may disagree with my imposition of “excellence” on these three gentlemen. I stand by my opinion. They were remarkable.

As I traveled through life, I’ve certainly perceived an underlying resentment toward high-achievers, people whose skills and intelligence supersede the attributes of the rest of us. But this is fueled by jealousy. It doesn’t normally engender violence, just disdain.

Back to the wall, so dramatic in its somberness.

My first reaction was one that engulfed me despite my best effort to avoid it: was the Vietnam War worth the loss of 58,000 lives and thousands who were maimed physically and mentally? This nagging question is not intended to besmirch the bravery and patriotism of our troops.

The war, like the decade, was complex. It was meant to contain the spread of communism in Asia. That was a noble objective that placed us in the middle of a civil war between North and South Vietnam. As documented, our political and military leaders lied to American citizens about the inability of the world’s greatest power to change the political equation in Vietnam. As time went on, despite hard-fought victories, we lost mightily on the field of public opinion.

As our troops fought courageously in the jungles and rice paddies of a divided South East Asian nation, back home the nation was engaged in protests staged against the war in cities and major universities. We were a nation at war with itself. While conversation and actions were harsh and disruptive, women, for one, made strides in the business, political and academic worlds.

As I strolled along the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, I saw what is commonplace at the actual memorial in Washington, DC: flowers and a note left by a veteran in memory of the loss of five fellow soldiers. That’s symbolic of the compassion and healing power of this unusual and poignant tribute to the dead.

Whatever passions were stirred by an immensely unpopular war, the Memorial Wall offers a quiet, contemplative place to pay homage to our nation’s fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard members. It even summons forgiveness on the part of those who mistreated our returning veterans.

Our country’s history comprises many historic decades. Our own lives pass through phases, variously pleasant and unsettling. Last week’s 50th anniversary of the death by gunfire of Robert F. Kennedy at a hotel in Los Angeles, following a campaign victory speech during his quest for the Democratic nomination for president, drew me back to my adolescence and young adulthood in the sizzling 60s.

I recall I was just beginning to like Bobby Kennedy. In contrast to his brother, the president, he seemed so strident and pugnacious. I learned that in many ways he was more passionate and sensitive than his charmingly smooth older brother.

I thought maybe another Kennedy could have become president. It was not to be.

Just two months prior to the killing of Bobby Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a giant among civil rights leaders, was gunned down in Memphis, Tennessee. He led the rocky and risky crusade for racial equality, fighting forces of discrimination that still exist.

Dr. King’s “I have dream speech” was an unforgettable call for national unity. He strove ceaselessly for racial equality. He awakened the national consciousness. Yet, equality remained elusive. He died pursuing his dream.

When Robert Kennedy was shot on June 5, 1968, dying the following day, I was a young reporter at a community newspaper in Ellicott City in Howard County. Still shaken by the murder of the Rev. King, I was dumbfounded and shocked by the assassination, only two months later, of Sen. Kennedy. I immediately wrote an editorial and submitted it to the editor. He rejected it for reasons I cannot recall. He likely considered it too emotional.

So, here I am 50 years later, writing that editorial. This one is probably more reasoned and mature. After all, what does a new reporter just out of college know about depth?

Viewing the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall transported me back to a difficult and disruptive decade.

The journey was well worth it.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

National Music Festival: One Week Left!

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Richard Rosenberg, NMF Artistic Director, conducts a concert during the 2017 National Music Festival.     Photo by Philip Rosenberg.

The National Music Festival, now in its seventh year in Chestertown, is one of the best classical music experiences around. And it’s a bargain! NMF concerts tickets run $10 to $20. You would pay $50, $100, or more for the equivalent quality in D.C., Philadelphia or New York. And some are even free! Most of the rehearsals are free and open to the public. They are very informal. You can come in at any point during the scheduled rehearsal time. Stay for fifteen minutes just to get the flavor or spend an hour and hear professional musicians hone their craft.

Monday, June 11, features The NewBassoon Institute. You can catch the small break-out rehearsals in any of three locations from 3:00-5:00 pm–at Tom Martin’s Bookplate or Chestertown Town Hall, both on Cross Street or at the River Club above the Evergrain Bread Company at the corner of High and Queen (entrance on Queen Street).  Then the three groups will come together for a full rehearsal with all musicians at the Sultana Education on Cross Street from 5:30-6:30. The concert itself starts at 7:30 at the Sultana. All the bassoon rehearsals and the concert are free and open to the public.

Check the open rehearsal schedule online here or the concert schedule here.

The National Music Festival will be Chestertown at various locations through Saturday, June 16, culminating with an all Tchaikovsky concert Saturday evening at 7:30 pm with the  Festival Symphony Orchestra at the  Chestertown Baptist Church.  Tickets are $20.  Richard Rosenberg will conduct.  Also featured will be cello soloist Gwen Krosnick and guest conductor Robert Stiles.

The Fiddlesticks ensemble with local children who took violin lessons provided free-of-charge by the National Music Festival staff during the school year got a chance to show their new skills during the opening concert of the festival held at the First United Methodist Church.      Photo by Philip Rosenberg.

Musicians rehearse for the first concert of the 2018 National Music Festival in Chestertown.     Photo by Philip Rosenberg.

 

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Mid-Shore Arts: Tara Helen O’Connor and the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival

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Sometimes it’s easy to take for granted some of the most remarkable institutions within one’s community. That is periodically the case with the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival which is now entering its 33rd year of bringing some of the best classical music performers to Talbot County.

Year after year, the Festival spends countless hours to make sure that it has locked in some of the most sought-after musicians and soloists in the world for its annual program for the great benefit of Mid-Shore and the Mid-Atlantic music aficionados.

But given their consistent track record, it sometimes is lost how remarkable the organizers have succeeded in not only ensuring that these world-class performers are present but are encouraged to come back time and time again through the hospitality of local host families and the great beauty of the Eastern Shore itself.

One of those great performers is Tara Helen O’Connor who many critics now consider to be one of the best flutists performing today.

For sixteen years Tara has made the trip from New York City down to Easton not only for the enjoyment of performing in the intimate venues arranged by the Festival but also so she can once again reunite with her host family, in this case, Charlie and Carolyn Thornton, who have become part of Tara’s extended family.

The Spy talked to Tara before her recent performance about her love of her instrument, her approach to performance, and her love of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. Additional video provided by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. For more information and ticket sales for the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival please go here